Mak­ing a splash

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Par­ent­hood has taught me pa­tience.

Just not enough of it. Bath time with Oliver has al­ways been in­ter­est­ing. He loves the wa­ter, which is great, con­sid­er­ing the kid needs to be hosed off pretty reg­u­larly. Now that he’s crawl­ing, get­ting into ev­ery­thing and feed­ing him­self (al­beit hap­haz­ardly), Ol­lie leaves a swath of sticky de­struc­tion in his wake. The kind that no pa­per towel or wipe can eas­ily erase.

Get­ting Ol­lie into the tub is no prob­lem, but get­ting him out? This re­quires the sort of strength I would only pos­sess in a lifeor-death sit­u­a­tion. Her­culean strength, one might say. Be­ing al­most 30 pounds of pure opin­ion, it’s hard to make Oliver do any­thing Oliver doesn’t want to do. And he ab­so­lutely, 100 per­cent does not want to leave his cozy tub for the cold bath­room. Ever.

Like many babies, his first tub was the kitchen sink. He was so tiny — less than 5 pounds — that Spencer and I would barely fill it and gen­tly lower him into the sudsy wa­ter, the two of us ma­neu­ver­ing around one an­other while Ol­lie closed his eyes to en­joy his spa ex­pe­ri­ence.

Those tran­quil even­ings are now re­placed by an hour-long play­time that Spencer must spear­head. Baths are just an­other chance for Ol­lie to run amok, which is amus­ing . . . un­til the splash­ing starts. Mama can’t do that. I’ve never, ever, ever been com­fort­able get­ting my face wet. I can’t ex­plain it, and I know it’s not ra­tio­nal. I just de­spise hav­ing wa­ter on my face, in my eyes, run­ning down my nose. I could blame it on my con­tact lenses, but this started long be­fore I fi­nally agreed to cor­rect my ter­ri­ble vi­sion.

So no, I don’t swim. Not in a pool, not in the ocean.

No, I don’t stick my face un­der run­ning wa­ter: in the shower, in a bath, in a hot tub, in a sprin­kler. Any­where.

Oliver, be­ing 16 months old and all, does not care about such petty con­cerns. He finds it hi­lar­i­ous to watch me cower, shriek and duck his thrash­ing limbs as soap bub­bles go ev­ery­where. My hus­band has kindly stepped in for most of the heavy lift­ing — and has emerged from be­side the tub look­ing like he fell in a lake. His T-shirt had be wrung out.

Be­yond the wa­ter-in-the-face as­pect, I find I’m just not a pa­tient par­ent at bath time. I’m al­ways run­ning through my men­tal to-do list, and hav­ing Spencer take over means I’m free to tackle ex­cit­ing projects like, you know, fold­ing the clean laundry still in a pile from last month or emp­ty­ing the dish­washer just to fill it right back up again.

It’s pretty bad that my “free time” is con­sumed by chores put off since the last time I had free time. But when Ol­lie is in the bath, splash­ing some­one else in the face, I can take care of nag­ging projects.

When I have ac­tu­ally plunked down by the tub, I watch Oliver with some­thing like envy. He is so fo­cused on any task put be­fore him: squirt­ing bath toys, try­ing to wres­tle away a sham­poo bot­tle. On Sun­day, it was cap­siz­ing a boat.

Try­ing to get his at­ten­tion, Spencer laughed at Ol­lie’s con­cen­tra­tion while hold­ing a neon toy yacht un­der­wa­ter un­til it would bounce back to the sur­face. “He’s def­i­nitely fo­cused on sink­ing the S.S. Min­now over here,” he said.

I ad­mire that laser-sharp at­ten­tion. That pur­suit of a sin­gle goal. It’s not some­thing I can re­late to any­more. Adults have lists for their lists, text mes­sages to re­mind them of items on their lists, spouses and bosses and doc­tor’s of­fices all call­ing to re­mind them of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and ap­point­ments.

When I do have a mo­ment to just sit, I don’t know what to do with my­self. Know­ing there is al­ways some­thing I could be do­ing means I rarely give my­self the grace to sim­ply re­lax. I’ve for­got­ten how.

My hus­band, on the other hand? He sits by Ol­lie un­til bath­wa­ter has mor­phed their fin­ger­tips into prunes. Spencer is end­lessly amused by soap art and hap­pily en­gages Oliver in a bat­tle be­tween the army of rub­ber ducks and So­phie the Gi­raffe, a teether who ac­ci­den­tally be­came a bath toy. He knows how to play.

I re­ally ad­mire Spencer’s pa­tience — his abil­ity to stay in the mo­ment, con­tent to sit with a child hit­ting him with tidal waves. I can hear them as I re­stock the tow­els, their gig­gles echo­ing down the hall.

We all have our strong suits, I guess.

And any­way, last month’s laundry isn’t go­ing to fold it­self.

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